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Rainy season has started and the streets flood with every rain.

Luckily, for work, we haven’t had to move that much outside, and have been focusing mostly on high level meetings with other UN agencies. We (UNICEF) are in the midst of planning for a “One UN” project called UNDAP (UN Development Assistance Plan).  Without boring you with the details, it is where all the UN agencies are beginning to make one big country plan together where there is a division of labour of activities in key sectors. This differs from before, as every single agency would submit their own plans to the government and each agency did not communicate to each other what these plans and activities were. To just give you an idea of what this means, for example, UNICEF submits over 30-35 work plans that need to be signed by the government (and were originally planned with the government), times that by the 19 other UN agencies in Tanzania, and that means there are over 300 work plans that the government has to sign from just the UN.  I am sure it is not that many, but if you think about all the activities, costs, plans, time that is overlapping, this new plan could potentially be more efficient and save a lot of time and money. Believe it or not, Tanzania is one of the first countries in the world to pilot this project.

Now, that was an extreme over simplification of what is happening, but it gives you the main idea.  For more information, look here and here.

Although this is incredibly interesting process, this also means now a lot of meetings which can really be daunting.  It is hard to find time in the day to even write emails.

As for my personal life, I was also able to travel to Moshi again for Easter. It was an amazing experience as I was able to live with Selina and her family for almost a week.  I can’t even begin to tell you about the experience, as it would flood into pages and pages…  but, I can provide a few pictures and captions:


My sister just sent me a clip of a 9 year old boy from Tanzanian re-enacting his favourite movie, the 1980s Schwarzenegger film called Commando.

The video is from an organization called Mama Hope who has created a “Stop the Pity. Unlock the Potential” campaign.  I think this is such a great idea, and a great step forward for western NGOs to move away from perpetuating the image that Africans are poor, sick and in dire need of Westerners help. This really hits home for me when I show people pictures back home of Dar es Salaam; a lot of people are completely shocked when they see that I live in a city with sky scrapers. Part of this, I know,  is because their only interaction with Africa is how western NGO’s/Bono/the News portray it: babies with swollen bellies and flies circling them, surrounded by war and infected with AIDS.  This might be a great tactic to get short term funding, but this also completely ignores the diversity that is the 54 countries 55 countries of Africa (for instance, the growing middle class) and is not so helpful for long term development/international cooperation across the continent (not to mention potential investor/business confidence).

More on Mama Hope:

Mama Hope is a California-based nonprofit “focused on building self-sufficient communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.” The organization teams up with locally-based organizations in those communities and invests in “high impact, cost effective projects that meet their fundamental needs for food, water, education and health care.”

More on the campaign, from Mama Hope’s organizers:

Take the word “Africa.” Without thinking, what images immediately come to mind? War? AIDS? Genocide? Or maybe the vision of a small child with a swollen belly, surrounded by flies? Too many non-profits ask for your pity by depicting poor, helpless Africans. But like any stereotype, this portrayal has more exceptions than truth.

Mama Hope feels it is time to re-humanize Africa and look to the positive change that is happening. We’ve had enough of the tragic impressions and abundance of sad, oppressive imagery that floods media outlets and non-profit campaigns. It’s time to stop they pity and unlock the potential.
Through a series of thought provoking videos we hope to break the negative perception of Africa. We want you to see the courage, wit and potential of an incredible culture, people, and continent.


If I were ever to tell you to donate to an organization, I would tell you to donate to this one.

Thank you Boing Boing‘s Xeni Jardin for blogging this.

HT Rachel Reichel

As some of you may have guessed, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to write more. I have definitely been neglecting this thing, but hopefully, now that the holidays are over I can get back into a routine.

During my vacation, I had the pleasure of hosting some friends who are CIDA interns in Malawi. On one occasion, we grabbed a two hour dala dala and headed north of Dar to the old German colonial capital city of East Africa, called Bagamoyo. It was amazing. Because Tanzania was a main coastal destination for incoming goods, explorers and missionaries, there is a lot of history here — a place where many journeys began and ended. Most famously, it was where David Livingtone’s body was carried (5,000 km) after his death, so that it could be returned back to London.

In the city there are old museums and the ruins of a mosque from the 13C. But the most interesting part for me, was at a catholic missionary museum; this is where I first heard of a Canadian explorer William Grant Stairs. I am sure, like me, you have never heard of him.  The museum has this picture of him (see below) and a small description of his journey with Henry Morton Stanley (yes, the infamous explorer Stanley) from the mouth of the Congo River to Bagamoyo in 1889.  Stairs was only 25, a recent graduate from the Royal Navy in Nova Scotia, and completing a 5000 km journey across Eastern Africa.

When I returned from our trip to Bagamoyo, I started to do some research on him.  The more I read about him, and the more I delved into his history… the clearer the picture I got of this dark and twisted man. A lot of the accounts start with his more admirable accomplishments, such as, his discovery of one source of the Nile, the Semliki River or that he was the first non-African to climb the Ruwenzoris (10,677 ft).

However, it then the brutality of his expedition starts to shine through. For instance, he was wounded in the chest on the trek by a poisonous dart when he was shot by locals who thought their expedition was a slave raiding party — they (his expedition) killed hundreds in return.

I found one book that has his journal from his second mission in the Congo, where he is hired under Leopold II of Belgium to take Kantanga (an area that was not falling easily under Belgium control).  The journal reads a lot like Heart of Darkness, where you have a man who seems eerily similar to Mr. Kurtz.  I think for those who liked the Heart of Darkness and  have interest in this period of history should take the time to read this (although maybe not for the faint of heart).

One excerpt that was very disheartening:

For those still reading… I read one story that makes the man seem absolutely frightening. In competition with Cecil Rhodes’ British South Africa Company, Stairs expedition set out to sign a treaty with the infamous Msiri. Msiri was a Tanzanian who had been sent by his father to Katanga to gain access to copper and ivory supplies. In a series of events which I will not detail here, Msiri then took control of the area and became increasingly powerful. Two other expeditions to the region proved to be failures.  But this is where it gets gruesome:

After three days of negotiations without progress, Stairs gave Msiri an ultimatum to sign the treaty the next day, December 20, 1891. When Msiri did not appear, he sent his second-in-command, Captain Bodson to arrest Msiri, who stood his ground. Bodson shot him dead, and a fight broke out. The expedition took their wounded and Msiri’s body back to their camp where Stairs was waiting, and there they cut off Msiri’s head and hoisted it on a pole in plain view as a ‘barbaric lesson’ to his people. Some of the Garanganze were massacred by the expedition’s askaris, and most of the rest fled into the bush.

Oral histories of the Garanganze people say that the expedition kept Msiri’s head – by some accounts in a can of kerosene – but it cursed and killed everyone who carried it and eventually, this included Stairs.He was ill with malaria throughout January 1892. After being relieved by another expedition, the Stairs Expedition set out on the long return journey to Zanzibar. Stairs was frequently sick but by May 1891 had recovered. On a steamer down the lower Zambezi he had another attack of malaria which killed him on June 9, 1892. He is buried in the European Cemetery in Chinde, Mozambique at the mouth of the Zambezi River.

It makes me wonder why he is commemorated at the Royal Military College of Canada and St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario and in Rochester Cathedral near Chatham, England or why they named Stairs Island, in Parry Sound, Ontario after him.

Success! I have figured out how to upload photos. Here are a few to look at from my trip to Lindi:  

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I was fortunate enough last week to go on my first field visit, which was to Lindi (find a map and info here) where the Tanzanian government (funded by UNICEF) is setting up a disaster preparedness warehouse for the region. This means that if there is a disaster in the southern half of Tanzania, the government will have accessible supplies (blankets, cooking pots, soap, etc.)  that it can ship out to the affected areas.

The trip was scheduled to take 4 to 5 hours from Dar es Salaam, where we would then meet the regional government officials around 1. The day started off well enough, our counterparts from the Prime Minister’s Office and UNDP were 5 minutes early, and to my surprise, we were on the road just after 8. I don’t think I have ever been on a work trip that actually left on time.

However, many of you will wonder why I did not predict this from the beginning given the state of most roads in developing countries… but our trip did not take 4 hours. After dosing around the 5th hour, I was woken up with my head thumping loudly against the window. To all of our shock (none of us had ever travelled to Lindi before), we discovered that the road is only paved for the first and last parts of the journey — the middle is a bumpy, dusty, and congested with traffic. It reminded me of Texas and Africa’s post about newly paved roads in the Congo — say what you will about Chinese Development, but driving on a paved road makes a hell of a difference, especially in the rainy season. I don’t even think that travel on this road would be possible in the rainy season, which means that the Lindi region (and subsequent areas) would be cut off from the economic centre. It really makes you rethink the Serengeti Highway.

When we finally arrived, 9 hours later, we had just missed the Regional Administrative Secretary, but were still able to see the disaster preparedness warehouse that UNICEF is funding to be rehabilitated.  This didn’t take long… and after eating a tough, overpriced piece of chicken, we all went to bed early.

The next day, I woke up early to get a good start on the day.  I walked to the beach at about 5:30 am, right when the fishermen were pushing their sail boats out.  It made me think about the potential this place had for tourism if it was only accessible. It had beautiful, long, white sand beaches, and stunning views on the higher ridges of the city.

After breakfast, and a bit of a communication mishap with the Director of the Disaster Management Department (he thought I was calling another officer fat —don’t worry, he thought that was hilarious too), we met with the Regional Administrative Secretary to the PMO. As we sat down, the Director looked at me and said… “Today is the beginning of the rest of your days”. It seemed pretty apt given that it was my birthday, which none of them knew. Although, I guess that statement would be true any day.  The rest of the meeting was very friendly, but very short… and before long we were back on the road again making the long trek back to Dar.

 All in all… it was a long, long, long journey but worth it. We made our contacts and got a good idea about the next steps in the rehabilitation of the warehouse. Part of my job will be supervising this particular project, so I was happy to see that everyone was so cooperative. Although, I will be sure to bring a pillow and long book for my next trip back to the region.

UPDATE: You can see pictures of my trip here.

I leave today to do field work for a couple days, so I might not post an update until Monday. As you may have guessed, I will spending my birthday in the field (which I am super excited about!). But, when I get back, Scott (the other intern) and I are hoping to find a pub some where to celebrate. Pictures will come soon!

As I was packing all my things up again today, I thought I’d do a follow up post to packing. For all those curious…

Things I am glad I packed:

  • Granola Bars
  • E-reader (Much like a Kindle, this things holds a large amount of books in a tiny space. Amazing! Best thing an avid traveler can have)
  • Sleeping bag (The hotels you find on budgets like ours… are sometimes not the cleanest)
  • Multiple pairs of dress pants/shirts (I have been wearing them almost everyday to work)
  • Universal adapter
  • Swahili dictionary

Things I wish I would have packed:

  • More Skirts
  • Closed toe dress shoes
  • A lock box/ or suitcase locks
  • A handy laundry basket that folds down (Scott brought one and it is brilliant!)
  • House sitting gifts from Canada
  • Aloe Vera
  • A nice notebook for work
  • Bug spray (Why I didn’t bring that, I will never know!)

Things I could have done without :

  • More than one sweater
  • More than two tank tops (Not super appropriate here)
  • AA Batteries…. I don’t have anything that uses them, which is perplexing
  • And all that stuff I have yet to look at in my suitcase

And, I probably should have cut all my hair off. Man, is it hot here.

But, as I said in a previous post, I think I pretty much covered all my bases. I haven’t ventured out enough here to really see what I can get, but I did find a Dollarama, which should do nicely.

I haven’t been reading a lot on the internet (save google reader, notice the prevalence of Hat Tips (HTs)), and sadly, a lot of the articles I read in the Tanzanian newspapers I can’t find online.

However, here are a few articles you might find interesting.




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